My Take: student murdered mom, hid body
My elementary student wanted to crawl into my class after he completed an exam. Next up: a hagwon, (학원) a private after-school program. My students are still content, despite the overwhelming societal pressure to not fold under the education fever. They seem satisfied at their school but I’ve heard horror stories about other schools from other foreign teachers.
Things will change drastically for my students when they arrive to middle and high school. They’ll have to face the University Entrance exam, (Sunung Shihom (수능시험) which means more hours cramming information at night.
This exam reminded me of the Florida FCAT. The stress level, at the time, was overwhelming. Back in high school, I felt like I was being taught only to take tests. However, we did have more time for creativity and physical activities. The freedom as an American student, in comparison, far exceeded the freedom Korean students have.
A few days ago, in Seoul, a high school senior stabbed his mother in the throat with a kitchen knife. He hid her body in a room for 8 months. It had been alleged that the mother resorted to physical violence when his grades failed to meet her expectations. (The Story)
It’s a shocking story but what was more shocking was nonchalant response by foreign teachers after the details emerged. It’s like a foreseen bubble ready to burst—they felt and notice the pressure but are unable to effectively talk about it or provide solutions. It’s also not in our place to do so. Of course I worry about the well-being of any student; I just view it as a genuine human-to-human empathy toward their stress.
Sure, it’s easy to point out the extremes, but it’s certainly a story that re-sparks the conversation on the positives and negatives of the education system—both in regards to the USA and Korea.
I don’t want to trap myself in this Is-ought problem, all I can do is provide laughter and English edutainment—a class room of learning and escape.
There is no doubt that the education system in Korean has its success and its shortcomings (see here).The conversation centers on one or the other. Educational stagnation is a major problem in America. Barack Obama has mentioned the education system here as a model worth emulating, but in a way which ignores the drastic social differences, the hyper-competiveness, and the definition of success.
As the old saying goes, is too much of anything bad? Well, it depends on the “anything” we’re referring to. What about doing things in moderation? It’s a matter of debate with no clear cut answer and a combination of theories that seems even more overwhelming to bear.
Check out Success and Education in South Korea by Clark W.Sorensen